A New Era for Prison Fellowship and Corrections
Important News regarding the faith based unit.
After some 18 months of ongoing dialogue and negotiations with the Department of Corrections, as we explored ways to align the unique approach of the Faith Based Unit, He Korowai Whakapono, at Rimutaka Prison to the ongoing problems of reducing recidivism we have jointly released the following statement:
“A new agreement between Prison Fellowship New Zealand and Corrections will give prisoners access to the Christian organisation's reintegration programmes in more sites than ever before.
Under the new agreement, Prison Fellowship will deliver reintegration programmes. A pilot of one of these programmes, Target Communities, is underway in four prisons. The programme has been tailored to maximise the reintegration support for prisoners on their release into the Greater Wellington and Auckland Council regions.
The pilot is currently running in Rimutaka, Arohata and Spring Hill Prisons. From early next year it will also be available in Auckland Regional Women's Correction Facility.
Jo Field, Corrections' General Manager Service Development said Prison Fellowship's work in prison and the community was highly valued.
“Prison Fellowship's work on both sides of the wire is greatly appreciated, which is why we're continuing to work together. Corrections is drawing on Prison Fellowship's strengths to promote a new way of reintegrating prisoners as they return to the community,” she said.
Since October 2003, Prison Fellowship New Zealand has run the Christian-based rehabilitation programme at Rimutaka Prison's Faith-Based Unit (FBU). The new agreement will mean the FBU will close, making way for new reintegration activities which will reach prisoners at more sites.
Gregory Fortuin, Executive Chairman of PFNZ, remarked, “Although this marks an end of an era for one of our highest profile programmes in the prison system, we are now planning, with other community partners and our volunteers throughout New Zealand, to take the Christian values - based programmes and services we have learned do work, into many more prisons. The Board of PFNZ would like to acknowledge the work of its previous Trustees and National staff in setting up the unit and the many thousands of hours of practical service by its staff and volunteers over the past 9 years, working alongside the 500 plus men who have passed through the faith based unit, many of whom are now serving their families, churches and communities, living crime-free."
Mr Fortuin continued, “We firmly believe that our Christian faith based work has made a discernable difference, and created something unique that can be used to transform many more men and women's lives in the years to come. This will require many more community volunteers to be trained to assist prisoners and ex-prisoners so that they are equipped with the skills and behaviours needed to cope with moving back into their communities."
Robin Gunston, National Director of Prison Fellowship New Zealand, says, “Since the review of the outcomes of the Faith Based Unit in September 2010 we have been working with Corrections to find ways in which we could enhance the effectiveness of our methods so that we reduce recidivism amongst those we work with. We have undertaken extensive research and changes to our programmes and services to be more focussed on the development of the motivation, character and integration skills needed for men and women moving back into the community, and have significantly improved the processes we use to link men back into receiving communities. This work has now been recognised as being essential to helping Corrections fulfil the new goal of reducing recidivism by 25% by 2017."
The FBU at Rimutaka Prison will close in November. PFNZ will celebrate its work at the prison with events on and offsite over the weekend of November 24th and 25th."
There are many reasons why the Board and Management of Prison Fellowship New Zealand have moved down this route, amongst them are:
• We have not been able to prove the quantitative results to the satisfaction of the Dept of Corrections, but
• We know that we have made a difference in lives of many men
• We are Prison Fellowship so we have to be in prisons
• We wish to more actively support the Department's work to reduce recidivism, using the interest and skills of our mainly Christian communities
• We want to work across the entire prison system so more of our volunteers and churches get the opportunity to help transform lives
• We have been looking for a place in the correctional system that fits our Christian communities' needs and the Department's- that place seems at present to be the self-care units which are in 10 prisons.
• We have embarked on a process with the Department of exploring all the possible ways in which the experiences gained from the 9 years in the FBU are transferable to our new work
• We have a concept of making these self-care units a "village" which prepares men and women well for their eventual release
• We will continue support for men and women in the community through our Community Throughcare schemes including Target Communities, halfway houses, assisted accommodation etc so that they can attain crime free lives.
We have done this consciously after a great deal of prayer and discussions. We are working with our colleagues in the Prison Chaplaincy Service of Aotearoa to ensure that the spiritual needs of the men we have been caring for are continued within Unit 7 at Rimutaka, and will of course be walking alongside those we have already started making transition plans for as they leave prison.
We wish to thank all of you who have actively supported this pioneering work for many years, both in your giving, prayers and coming to attend the men in the Unit week by week.
There have been many areas of success, all of them encapsulated within the individual stories of men and their families who have been changed. Some of those are recorded in Ken Gartner's book “Passing through Shadows” we featured in the last edition.
We hope that over time we can compile a history of the work here as a faithful witness to God within the prison system of our country. If you have stories to tell please send them to us in the months to come.
Here is a link to the message we wish to convey to all Prison Fellowship supporters and churches across NZ at this time. We do not wish for there to be any negative reaction to this move at this time and trust you will respect this.
Please pray for us all as we move forward to a new era in our prison ministry, one in which many more of you will have the opportunity to do something very powerful that will assist men and women to be transformed, by faith, to live crime free.
Gregory Fortuin Robin Gunston
Executive Chairman National Director